Saturday, April 18, 2009

Oiling the hinges

The other day, I was riding in the hot sun, on a deserted road, and as I approached an S-bend, I couldn't help but resist, leaning in low at the turns, even though I had decided not to do so. That's when it hit me : "I can, but should I?". There are a million situations where this question comes to my mind, sometimes I give heed to it, while most times I don't. Is it even in my powers to stop myself, I wonder. That's where Dr. Dan Ariely come in. Recently I read this book called Predictably Irrational written by him. I don't read non-fiction books that often, but there was something about this book that that caught my eye. I didn't really have a lot of time on my hands, and the fact that I had loads to write (more like copying actually, nothing involving much mental activity), inspired me to try out an audio book instead of the regular book. Honestly, I had always despised those who read/heard audio books, and considered it as a mean by which the lazy, got through with books that were forced onto them. Anyway, for me, this was the means of getting through with the book I had forced onto myself. I started of with the book, not thinking much of it, especially since wikipedia stated the genre of the book as Behavioral economics. But as the night became cold, and the pile of sheets I had left to write, diminished, I became more n more engrossed in the book, and with each break that I took from writing, which was based on the chapters of the book, ending, I gave the it some thought, and I was able to relate to a million incidents, where I had behaved irrationally, or even when people I knew acted this way, and then all of a sudden, it all made sense. So coming back to why I leaned in low, and took the turn at double the speed I ought to have, the answer is herding. Okay, I did tell you that it was a deserted road, and since there was no one around, how could I have queued up behind someone else, when I went in to take the turn. The fact, according to Dr. Ariely is that I am queuing up behind my own self. When the first time I went in low, it was only out of curiosity. The next time I thought that the last time wasn't that bad, in fact it was fun, why not do it again. And then there was no looking back. So you see, even though my decision was an irrational one, it was, to some, quite a predictable one. And the fact that I am aware of the mechanism of herding, does little to improve my chances of not behaving more rationally, as the author of the book has himself conceded having fallen victim to certain illogical behaviour, despite having prior knowledge to this flaw in the human nature. It is only in retrospect that we can clearly see the fallacy influencing our actions. Sadly, though the book does go into the detailed analysis of the widdershin nature of human behaviour, it is only restricted to the aspects influencing behavioural economics. So this incident occurred, which in my opinion was a little unreasonable. As I have already mentioned before, I ride an Enfield, and you all must probably be aware that Enfields are a little greedy when it comes to oil consumptions, and most of them are clumsy eaters, spilling more than consuming. So any way, I always keep a container of oil at home, just to occasionally fill her up. And yesterday, I noticed that a couple of the doors at home were squeaking. Since I knew that no one was going to get their hands dirty with oil, I took it upon myself to rid all doors of their squeak. Okay, I may have been a tad too generous with the oil, but at the end of the day all doors were mute. Sadly, my efforts went not only unappreciated, my parents seemed rather displeased by my actions. Apparently the doors became so free that the slightest breeze sent the door flying shut or open whatever be the direction of the gust. Even though I didn't didn't expect any appreciation, it did feel bad that my parents were not happy about it. And what is worse, is that I realised that I too do this with other people all the time. They say there are pleasure centers that get activated when one's work is appreciated. Are there displeasure centers too in the brain? Speaking of pleasure centers the other day a random guy (who looked atleast 45) who was with his wife in a car next to me, at a red light, rolled down his window, and said "You have a beautiful bike". Doesn't it feel great when someone you don't know, n will probably never meet again, complements you (or your beloved belongings in this case). That guy made me smile for atleast the next 5 minutes, if not more. Any way, reading this book made me realise, how my decisions have already been taken for me. Which reminds me what my Hindi tutor taught me, there is this phrase from the Mahabharat, n technically should also be in the Gita, which roughly translates to the happenings have occurred before they happen. Probably it was too profound a thought for me to have understood then, but I did finally get what it meant a while ago. Its like the actions we are going to perform are to a great extent depended on the ones that preceded it. And now this book only reinforces the statement. I would like to probe the decision making process a bit further, and would certainly be reading more books of this kind from now on.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A mind of their own!

Okay, I am convinced that music players have a mind of their own. Isn't it freaky when a music player can read your mind, perceive your mood and responds with an appropriate song? Well strangely enough, this happens way too often with me. So, I have this habit of en queuing all my songs and listening to them randomly. This gives the music player a bit of freedom to play the song of it's choice. The other day, for the first time in about a year's time or so, I touched triple digit speeds on my bike, and I was reminded of how painful the wind was at a 100 km/hr, with clothes flapping around. Also, I was reminded of my last major accident, n it was at that moment did I realized that the song playing in my earplugs was one called Crash into me, by Dave Matthews Band, and down came the speed :) Another incident, this one's happened to me twice, I am riding down the road, not too fast, but not too slow either. All of a sudden something comes in the middle of the road out of no where, n decides that it'd be cool to take their time in doing whatever they were doing. So all you can do is brake real hard. I swear to God that it has happened at least twice to me, I fishtail all over the road, n when I finally come to a stop, I realize the song which has been playing is Alive by Pearl Jam. I am telling you it is really freaky to listen to this song, after a near miss. I even considered removing this song from my play-list, but I am an Eddie Vedder fan and decided against doing so. So now whenever this song plays when I am riding, I simply slow down and stay behind the slowest guy on the street. Oh and it's not just while riding do I experience such behaviour from my players. It is a universal thing with music players around me. Like just the other day I couldn't get this piece of code to run, because it was infested with bugs. So any way, when I finally got it to run, I was really happy, n then James Brown took over my speakers n started singing I got you AKA I feel good :D There are a dozen other such incidents that give me the feeling that my player is messing around with me. On my PC, there is a one in a twenty five thousand chance of listening to a particular song at a particular moment. Also, another trend that I have noticed is that when you have a large enough play-list, the genre of the song playing, rarely changes. I mean how can a player keep finding songs one after song from the same genre. And once again, I am not talking of one particular player. It happens on all players with me. Was it specific to just one player, I would have understood. Speaking of players, my favourite player on my PC is Winamp, which BTW is a really resource intensive player, once you en queue all your songs into it. I don't mind a player eating up RAM as long as it provides me decent features, but Winamp, it eats up an average of about 22-23% of my CPU cycles when it has to face my entire play-list. A couple of hundred songs and it requires less 0.5% of the CPU cycles. I wonder if Winamp keeps calculating which should be the appropriate song to play next. (5 minutes later...) Well I just observed the player's disk I/O, and it most certainly isn't analysing any audio file. In fact it doesn't access any file till the very last second. Then it accesses the File Table, and then the directories, followed by the file to be played next. Hmmm, now I really wonder what Winamp is doing with it's resources. And coming back to the original question, do media players have a mind of their own? Have others experienced anything similar? Or am I just paranoid?

Friday, April 3, 2009

What's so good about this morning?

So it's 6:30 AM n I am up early today. God I hate getting up early, it makes me all sulky throughout the day. N now that I think about it it, there is a lot to sulk about. Slept early yesterday night (12 AM implies early), because there was this power cut. Any way I get up at 4:30, n twist n turn around in my bed, till I knock the TV remote off the edge of the bed at around 6. That was when I realized I had this strange feeling in my stomach. It had been so long since I had felt hunger, that I had almost forgotten how it felt. What I also had forgotten was that it was almost as bad as not being hungry. I wondered what I should be doing after getting up this early. My first thoughts were to go for a run, or may be just a walk to start with, only to realize, I don't even know where my sport's shoes are kept, or even if I still have a pair or not. I switch on the TV, n scan through the only 12 channels I watch. Nothing interesting there. So I switch on my PC, n it refuses to start. Took me half an hour to get it to work. I wonder if I'll even be able to finish my post. Coming back to post, in case u are wondering what makes this morning so glum, it is the fact that I stayed in my bed trying hard not to have thoughts about anything while they just kept coming. So I start with the thoughts I went to sleep with. The other day I lost my headphone, no wait, I don't mean 'lost' lost. I mean 'broke' lost. It was then that I realised how music has a tendency to brighten up your life. The thing is that I don't spend much time at home anymore, n whenever I am out, I have my ear plugs slung around my neck. Even my PC isn't working that well. It has some hardware defect I am unable to figure out. I am guessing (or rather hoping) it is just the SMPS. It's been ages since I blew up one. My bike isn't running that well either. I was almost totally out of fuel, when I got her topped up to the brim from my regular pump, which I hadn't been able to go to for a while. Right after that, I noticed a change in the exhaust note. The sound became heavier as if there was unburnt fuel in the exhaust. The acceleration reduced and n ride isn't that smooth anymore. Now I know how parents might have felt after learning about the lead content in Chinese toys, or after that milk powder controversy again from China (but that, I guess, would be too extreme). I have got to burn the entire tankful, before I can refill again. Also, my bike has got a clatter coming from its engine, which is because the tappets get lose if u ride too hard. And although it isn't a bad thing to happen (according to my mechanic it is good to leave it a bit lose in such a weather), it is really irritating to listen to, while riding without my earplugs. Speaking of the weather, it has gotten really warm these last couple of days, n I have to ride around 40 kms a day, in this heat. Though I have to say, my room is strangely pleasant. Even right now, I am sitting without a fan with a jacket on, oh but I am not talking about the good stuff in this post. Coming back to sulking, I have been so busy of lately, that I haven't watched a movie since God knows when. N there, I have sulked about everything that I have stated as my interests in my blog profile. I really wonder why we can't be happy with what we have got. Why do we have to be so materialistic? Speaking of being materialistic, reminds me of my very first unpublished post, where I muse upon the need of being so. I was sitting in a hospital where I notice the pain n suffering that surround the doctors, n realize that being materialistic can actually be good for certain people. Anyway, I have stuff I need to do right now, so I guess it's time to sign out. Argh!!! Almost forgot forgot to sulk about the electricity. We have been having half an hour power cuts every hour and a half... I'd almost clicked on the submit button, when I had a power cut again. Oh wait, there is more. I have to crib about Windows 7 n IE 8, but i think I'll put up another post for it, when I have the time for it. I'm insanely busy at the moment.